Researchers behind a new are hypothesizing that watching your favorite sports team lose can actually make you...gain weight? According to From Fan to Fat? Vicarious Losing Increases Unhealthy Eating, but Self-Affirmation Is an Effective Remedy, by Pierre Chandon and Yann Cornil, the outcome of sports games has a demonstrable affect on people's eating habits.
Other studies have shown that sports games can affect drunk driving, domestic violence and car accidents, but this is the first study that correlates what you eat to that crushing loss in the 4th quarter (or last inning or whatever it may be). Cornil and Chandon compared the outcomes from two seasons of NFL games in 30 cities with people's food consumption. The control group consisted of cities that did not have a home NFL team or where games hadn't just taken place. The results were pretty clear, says Chandon:
“One day after a defeat, Americans eat 16 percent more saturated fat, and 10 percent more calories. But on the day after a victory of their favourite team, then it’s the opposite. They eat more healthily. They eat 9 percent less saturated fat, and 5 percent fewer calories. There was no effect in cities without a team or with a team that didn’t play.”
And lest you think these results are only for people who are actual sports fans—when I first read this study, I was like whatever, because I don't care about football or baseball or any kind of ball—Cornil and Chandon's research included regular citizens, too, not just fans.
Of course, they did find that the cities with the most rabid concentrations of football fans had more striking results (people in those cities tended to eat 28 percent more saturated fat after a loss). But interestingly, the results were not different for men and women. People did tend to eat less food after their favorite team won, and the food they did consume tended to be healthier overall.
So why do people eat more after their team loses? Food is comforting, as we all know (Thank you, Ritter chocolate bars, for making every bad day just a little less bad). And the study's authors say that when your team loses, it's a threat to your personal identity, so that causes you to want to eat fatty foods that make you feel better.
This is all kind of fascinating, right? Even more fascinating, the study's author's provided a suggestion as to one way you can avoid drowning your depression in a vat of queso:
“Simply listing all the things that are important to you in life, such as family, religion, or maybe another sports team, eliminates the effects of defeats on consumption of fats.”
So the next time your team blows it... just recite a litany of the good things in your life? That sort of sounds like it might be too easy, but I also kind of like it. Maybe reminding yourself of the things that are really important to you is to the solution to every bad day you've ever had.